MARION — Marion’s annual Christmas in the Park event will adapt this holiday season to celebrate safely during the pandemic.
This year’s event, with the theme of Marion Home for the Holidays, will kick off Dec. 4.
Traditionally, the event is held in City Square Park with horse-drawn carriage rides, hot chocolate and a chance to visit Santa Claus.
But this year, Santa and Mrs. Claus, will be visiting Marion neighborhoods aboard a firetruck.
Tami Schlamp, director of member services for the Marion Chamber of Commerce, said the firetruck and Santa will cruise city neighborhoods the evening of Dec. 4.
“We’re doing a neighborhood wave, similar to what we saw teachers do in the spring,” Schlamp said.
The Clauses’ tours will begin at 5:30, 6:15 and 7 p.m.
Schlamp said the idea came from volunteers who help plan all of the chamber’s events.
“It’s taken a lot of people thinking outside of the box and outside of the park, where we hold a lot of our events typically,” she said. “This event has been going on for years, and multiple generations have participated together, seeing the Peace Tree and visiting Santa.”
She added the derecho damage to City Square Park trees played a factor, too.
The 5:30 tour will end with Santa stopping at the park for the annual lighting of the Peace Tree.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings, the lighting will be livestreamed on the Marion Chamber’s Facebook page.
During Santa’s neighborhood routes, a truck will follow to collect new hats, gloves and blankets, with tags attached, for the Keep Your Neighbors Warm initiative. Donated items will be distributed to local families in need.
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“These will be given to the Marion Holiday Giving Project, which is a project the Marion Independent School District puts together,” Schlamp said.
Letters to santa
The chamber also is bringing back the Letters to Santa program this year. Residents can drop off letters at Santa’s house, starting Dec. 4. The house will be in the former bus stop area at Seventh Avenue and 11th Street.
If letters have a return address and are in the box by Dec. 18, Santa will send a letter in return.
“We think that is kind of a lost part to Christmas,” Schlamp said. “You can get all these digital greetings now, and we just thought it would be fun to bring back the traditional writing of a letter.”
Holiday light tour
Chamber President Jill Ackerman said the organization also is excited to partner with the city for the Light the Night Holiday Lights tour, encouraging residents and businesses to decorate their homes and buildings with light displays. Interested individuals can submit their home to be included on the tour by emailing email@example.com by Dec. 1.
“We’ve included some prize money to get people to do it, and we’re hoping to see some great displays,” Ackerman said.
Additionally, the Marion City Council matched the chamber’s Leadership in Action programs funds for this year’s city holiday displays, which will include new lights in Uptown Marion and on some of the city’s roundabouts.
Uptown Marion also will be holding local shopping events.
In the Uptown Shop Local Giveaway, which started Nov. 21 and runs through Dec. 21, participating businesses will have QR codes, that when scanned, will enter the shopper for a chance to win $50 in “Uptown Dollars.”
“We are also encouraging stores to do storefront displays,” Chamber Program Director Brooke Prouty said.
Individuals can vote for their favorite display using the QR code. Voting will run through the month of December
“We knew our plan was never to do nothing,” Ackerman said of this year’s events. “We always knew we were going to provide some fun activity for our community. Being creative and finding unique ways to celebrate is what our focus was and has been the whole year.”
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